Friday, 28 October 2005

While I was away the typescript of Lord Alexander's Cipher; or, the Bridekirk Behemoth came back from the NWS together with a report on its strong points and its weaknesses.

The strong points are, apparently, my writing ("literate", "elegant"), the plot, and some of the "set piece" scenes (especially the one where we meet the elephant, but also the one near the beginning with the balloon). This is good news because if the plot were hopeless, or even a bit weak, I would probably have to start again from scratch, and if my writing style were poor then I really shouldn't be in this game at all. I enjoyed writing the set pieces, and maybe a couple more wouldn't go amiss.

There is one major problem. For a historical romance, LAC;o,tBB is rather lacking in, er, romance. The central romantic relationship is too thin. The heroine is not proactive enough, and the relationship is not developed very well. The hero and heroine meet too little, and interact too little when they do. I think that this is fixable, particularly as my reader was quite specific about the scenes that she thought were the most problematic, and she has very sensible suggestions about what I ought to do about them.

There are other less critical problems - I need to work on the dialogue, and I need to thin out the number of names and make them less similar to each other. This last point is something that I was conscious of already. There's also the problem of my letting the chief villain escape without explanation. The explanation is that she is needed for a sequel, but I need to set that up.

There may be more stuff annotated on the typescript itself which I will look at tomorrow, but the bottom line is, I think, that I should work on making LAC;o,tBB better, rather than either binning it and starting again, or binning it and not starting again.

Overall I am very happy with my report, so three cheers for the RNA and the New Writers' Scheme.


Gabriele C. said...

Yeah, that sounds indeed pretty promising. Especially since you already have ideas how to fix the weak points. Congrats.

Dialogue is one of my weak points, too, and I tend to have a Cast of Thousands as well. But then, I'm writing epic style novels, so the latter might not be that much of a problem.

You care to share some specifics about the dialogue problems?

Stephen said...

The main problem with the dialogue is that all the characters tend to speak in the same register. I need to give them more distinctive voices. For the hero and heroine I reckon that this should go hand in hand with developing their relationship. As I build up what it is that drives their relationship I can ensure that it is reflected in their voices.

The other problem is ensuring that all the dialogue serves a purpose - driving the story forward or developing characterisation.

(my verification word for this comment is "ooueeu" which seems appropriate for an almost-halloween posting)

Gabriele C. said...

Everyone sounds the same - exactly my problem. The only distinction I have is that a centurio might use more contractions than the tribal leader Talorcan. ;-)

Liz Fielding said...

Well done, Stephen.

I have to tell you that after 46 books I still need to go back and strengthen the emotional stuff -- the difference is that I can now recognize the weaknesses without editorial input.


I also had to go back and deal with a "baddie" more harshly in my most recent effort.


Jenny Haddon said...

Great stuff, Stephen. Especially good news that you have ideas about fixing the problems.

I'm with Liz - I still drop frightful clangers in early drafts. Sometimes in the drafts that editors get to see too, alas.

Seeing what's wrong with your book and fixing it - as opposed to generalised paranoia, which I have too and has to be lashed into submission on a regular basis - is part of the job description.

Good luck with version 2.

Kate Allan said...

Good luck adding in that romance. Remember to use all the senses and that romance can be subtle and in the tiniest detail. Your heroine will know what the hero smells like, may notice the way his nails are cut...

mandy said...

Well done. It's a huge achievement to finish a book, and it's even better if the book is well written with a good plot and good set pieces.

I have some tips about dialogue on my website and I've provided a link from my name. Everyone goes about things differently, but they might be of some use.

Liz Harris said...

Congrats, Stephen, on so many positive comments in your NWS critique. Furthermore, it sounds as if you have a clear idea about what to do in order to get the book just right.

Glad there are no thoughts of binning and starting/not starting again - you have a potential readership keen to learn of the heroine's relationship to the elephant.


Alex Bordessa said...

Sounds like you've got plenty of positive feedback! Well done, and I hope to see the Behemoth in print at some point in the not to distant future :-)

Julie said...

Glad you got a good, and helpful report. Good luck with the revisions--hope you enjoy them!